Game, match, grudge! Lady Panthers overcome East Hardy

Against East Hardy at home Tuesday, Addie Swindler passes for a set that Joslyn Smith (foreground) got to smack down. Photo by Melissa Delcour.

The Lady Panthers got their groove back Tuesday — and in the process got back at the only team to beat them so far this season.
In a week in which a packed schedule brought the Rappahannock County High School varsity volleyball team its first loss of the season and struggles with momentum after that, the girls fought hard the following two nights to win at Randolph-Macon Academy and again at home against Colonial Beach.

But the most satisfying win of the week was Tuesday night’s home grudge match against a surprised East Hardy team, beating the Cougars 3-0.

Of the team’s Sept. 14 long trip to lose to West Virginia’s East Hardy team, coach Jackie Tederick said: “The girls were pretty bummed. We defeated ourselves, which is one of the worst losses to process. The loss lingered into the next day as we met R-MA in Front Royal. Because we were missing Danika Kritter, our setter/hitter, the team was forced to play a totally different system/offense that we had never practiced. So the frustration led to some errors and miscommunications. But the girls pulled out a win.”

Last Thursday (Sept. 16) saw Rapp’s third match of back-to-back nights when they confronted Colonial Beach on Panther ground. “We were happy to play at home in our comfort zone,” Tederick said. “We were still without Kritter, so our goal that night was to run our new, temporary offense more efficiently and to communicate on the court.” 

Addie Swindler, Shelby Thornhill and Megan Early earned perfect serving records. Hanna Kopjanski tallied eight kills, while Bryn Sonnett logged six. “The efficient offense cannot go without saying that Lauren Settle gave perfect sets to her teammates and helped lead them to a win.”

Lady Panthers earned another, more important win against East Hardy Tuesday night at RCHS. When Addie Swindler stuffed the defense to earn the first point, the team’s intent became obvious.

It was a point-for-point game that motivated the crowd to stand and chant, “Let’s go Panthers. let’s go!” But the tug-of-war gave way when Rappahannock showcased its offense with several bump-set-spike combos, and Kritter assisted with a six-point serving run. Game one’s score: 25-19.

Game two only heightened the electric atmosphere in the gym; Kritter opened with a jump-serve ace. With some sloppy Panther passes, East Hardy gained power and rallied to rattle the home team to 5-8. Hannah Kopjanski revived focus with a dump into an empty Cougar pocket.

After Rappahannock gained a small lead at 11-10, East Hardy called a time-out that effectively broke the team’s momentum. Home-court advantage seemed lost as the tug-of-war fell to visitor advantage for a time. When the scoreboard read 22-22, however, the Lady Panthers turned the game into an offensive struggle at the net and ended with a 26-24 victory.

Energy was high for the start of game three, but Rappahannock quickly fell behind, 9-16. Disorganization, communications breakdowns and passing errors plagued the team. The tide began to shift when Swindler, due to a passing error, was forced into a near jump set. Her perfect set to Joslyn Smith for a middle hit kill generated a cheer. Subsequently, Hanna Kopjanski and Kritter teamed with another bump-set-kill. Rapp had decided to bring the heat!

The final points of the nerve-wracking game allowed Swindler to take advantage of a Cougar overpass near the net. Her powerful kill to the opponent’s empty middle-back position raised joyful screams from the crowd, which propelled the team further. Maddie Kopjanski nearly finished the match with a well-placed serve ace for a 26-25 score. The game ended at 27-25 when Hanna Kopjanski strategically tipped the ball into an open Cougar pocket and brought the Panthers into center court for a group celebration.

“The girls were ready for tonight!” Tederick said. “East Hardy just couldn’t recover their offense after our attacks.”

After the match, Swindler described her team’s attitude. “It was kinda like a revenge game. It was important to get them back for taking our undefeated season from us. We came out with a vengeance . . . a fire . . . and we went out with the taste of winning in our mouths.”

The varsity Lady Panthers are now 7-1. Their next contest is 5 p.m. tonight (Thursday, Sept. 23) at home against R-MA.

JV Panthers take their own revenge

JV Lady Panthers perfectly mirrored the varsity record this past week with a 1-2 loss in West Virginia and three subsequent wins at home: 2-0 Wednesday against Wakefield Country Day School, 2-0 Thursday versus Colonial Beach and 2-0 in their East Hardy rematch Tuesday.

Just like their lead team, JV suffered their first loss in three sets to a very good East Hardy team last week. Kaitlyn Jenkins had an outstanding serve game including four aces. Lyndie Paul, Josie Kritter (who also had no bad serves) and Paige Paul contributed with strong serve performances. Coach Jimmy Swindler was pleased with the effort, “I’m pleased that the team had a strong test. After the game, the refs mentioned that, in their opinion, it was one of the best JV games they had ever officiated.”

On Sept. 15, JV hosted WCDS and played without their coach and Jenkins, who was temporarily bumped up to varsity to compensate for injuries and absences. “Despite these absences,” coach Swindler said later, “and due to the skill of JP coach Vickie Williams who ably filled in for me, JV dominated in two games, 25-14 and 25-13.

“Lyndie Paul led the team with an outstanding serving game including nine aces and was well supported by strong serving performances from Shelby Burnett and Amber Dodson.  Coach Williams reported that not only did everyone on the team play, but everyone contributed to the win and improved the Panther’s record to 4-1.”

Last Thursday night, JV hosted Colonial Beach. Swindler said: “they thoroughly dominated an outmanned squad” with scores of 25-4 and 25-6.  Paul led the way with eight consecutive points on serve in the first game, seven in the second — four of them aces. Amber Dodson, Kritter and Paul also had strong serve games. Coach Swindler was proud that “the team did a good job in maintaining their focus against an opponent that was clearly well below their skill level.” Rapp’s JV record is now 5-1, reaching five wins two full weeks before last year, and the team is looking forward to next week’s rematch with East Hardy on Tuesday at home.

In their mirror-image grudge match this past Tuesday, JV Panthers welcomed East Hardy Cougars. Down 1-8 in the first game, the girls were stiff and not communicating. Coach called a time-out to refocus, and it worked.

Dodson served a three-point run. Kritter stepped up to even the score with her own three-point triumph. Paul took the team to a lead with her five-point addition, and Burnett sealed the 25-15 victory with five points as well. It was certainly a noteworthy comeback for the Panthers.

Game two saw Rapp jump out to quick lead of 10-2. Although the girls lost focus toward the end, they brought in the victory at 25-20. Burnett, Paul, Dodson and Kritter charted 100-percent serve successes.

“The hallmark of this team,” coach Swindler said, “is when they talk. When they talk — they win. The Cougars were the only team to beat us all season, so it was sweet to avenge that loss at home in only two games.”

The JV girls play at Wakefield Country Day School at 5 p.m. today (Thursday, Sept. 23).